Development Education & SDGs in the Classroom

Currently there are many new education issues and approaches aimed at making learning more fun and enjoyable for students and teachers. In the early 2000’s, the term Computer Based Training (CBT) was popular but was soon replaced with, Computer-Aided Learning (CAL). Then in the mid 2000’s, it thus became very fashionable to use projectors in class, displaying things on a computer via a VGA cable. That came with excitement of using computers to change the status quo.

There are also other soft issues such as Participatory Education, Learner-Centred Learning and Target Learning. These were mainly methods of delivery, and was done by the teacher / instructor.

Later, when laptops and internet became widespread, we saw how distance learning and e-learning became very popular, especially amongst the urban elites.

There is a new renewed belief in the acronym “STEM” – Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. Many now believe that these education paradigm will parachute Uganda to the much talked about “middle income” status. Oysters & Pearls Uganda, a non-profit organization based in Gulu, has even taken it far. The have outreach programmes based of STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering and Mathematics. All these buzz words have brought a lot of changes into our education system, depending on the angle with which you look at it.

However, today, I want to bring to light the concept of Development Education. I first heard of “development education” or Dev Ed during my January trip to Dublin, Ireland.

Development Education has been referred to by many names, most notably, Global Learning, Global Education, and Global Citizenship. No matter what name you choose to use, if you are educating for a just and sustainable world, you are delivering Development Education.

Development Education is a very important tool in making sense of the complex issues that prevail in our ever changing world. It is an active and creative educational process to increase awareness and understanding of the world in which we live. It is meant challenge perceptions and stereotypes by encouraging empathy, optimism, participation and action for a just world.

Organization such as Trócaire (headquartered in Maynooth, Ireland) uses Development Education to inform learners about global issues such as poverty, injustice, gender equality, humanitarian crises and climate change using a human rights lens. Their work engages children, young people and educators through a process of interaction, reflection and action.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to pilot the rollout of Development Education at Lira Town College, starting with my class. My experience in education tells me that improving education standards does not necessarily require financial resources. Sometimes, just the right attitude is enough. So, my plan was to start with what I have – knowledge, laptop, projector, scheme of work (incorporated with global issues).

In my weekly classes, I decided to add the “Development Education” segment of 15 minutes in the middle of the lesion. In this segment, I introduce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we can work on as a school. These include SDGs like SDG Goal number 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing; SDG Goal number 4 – Quality Education; SDG Goal number 10 – Reduced Inequalities; SDG Goal number 12 – Responsible Consumption & Production.

Every week, we look at only one SDG goal. I list the current topical issues concerning that goal and we discuss as a class. I must say that the segment is the most interactive period of our lesson.

The core objective of the Development Education in Lira Town College is to empower students to be change agents in their communities & take action in favour of SDGs.

Specific objectives under this action include:

  • To spread awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to influence responsive behaviour & decision making amongst students.
  • To enhance the career prospects of students with the belief that every career is rooted in solving a problem facing humankind.

Figure 1: The first slide of the lesson. Each lesson is grounded on ICT4D agenda.   

Assessing effectiveness: While it is good to know the effectiveness of any intervention, I believe it is too early to assess the effectiveness of an educational intervention within one year. However, in terms meeting defined objectives, all outlined objectives are being met.

Assessing the Efficiency: We talk about the efficiency, we cannot omit the issues of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis. We also look at the methodologies most appropriate for delivering the intervention. The Dev Ed pilot in only one class has been efficient, largely because I am the only teacher teaching it. The use of local available materials & gadgets makes it cost efficient.

Figure 2: The slide introducing the Development Education segment

Figure 3: The slide show the SDG for the day’s discussion.

Figure 4: The action points for the day.

Sustainability: This means the extent to which the programme / intervention is building mechanism and possibilities of sustainability beyond its lifespan, and the available opportunities that will guarantee this sustainability. The good thing is that students, the beneficiaries of the programme, are now fully submerged into the programme and actually demand the segment, in case it was omitted due to time constraints. This shows that even without the initiative of the teacher, they know that global issues need action. The opportunity for success is that A-level students are a bit enlightened about major global issues because they do a few subjects and the subject contents are deep and wide in nature. This enables them to quickly conceptualise, understand & debate issues.

Future Plan

Next year 2019, I intend to roll out the idea to all the A-level classes. This will start with Development Education Workshop in February, to orient the teachers to the concept and set out the issues concern. I intend to use the computer lab as the breeding ground of Development Education, and enrolled teachers will be free to use the lab & its resources for teaching.

Conclusion

I see Dev Ed as a pathway to social change. Wale Akinyemi, in an article in The East African (October 13, 2018), outlined the difference between today’s thinking and old thinking.

Old thinking says this is the way it has always been. New thinking says that while we appreciate the way it has been, this is the way it should be.

Old thinking says this is how we have always done it. New thinking says that it the very reason we should change the way we do it.

Old thinking says we have to uphold the traditions of the past. New thinking says we need to create new traditions for the future.

As for me, I choose to embrace the past but focus on the future.